Thursday, September 23, 2010


Paul Scholes has given the Carling Cup an unqualified thumbs-up, even though it could be one of the reasons why England perform so badly at major tournaments.

It was generally acknowledged that the sheer weight of matches is one of the prime reasons Fabio Capello's team put in abject performances in South Africa.

That explanation backs up Michel Platini's belief that England's best players turn from lions in the autumn, to lambs in the spring.

Although most of Europe are using this midweek to play matches, it is either for a league fixture that will allow a gap to be created later in the season, or for cup competitions they tend not to give much importance to.

In England it marks the first step towards a Wembley final on February 27, and for Manchester United the chance to collect the trophy for the third year running.

At this stage, Sir Alex Ferguson prefers to give his senior fringe players more game time, with the likes of Michael Owen among those expected to be selected for Wednesday's trip to Scunthorpe.

However, no-one needs reminding the competition provided two of the biggest nights of United's entire season last year; the two-legged semi-final with Manchester City.

And it is the prospect of playing in such fixtures that will ensure Scholes takes a keen interest in the outcome.
"I would prefer to be playing mega games than be sat at home watching them," said Scholes.

"You do get high intensity games in the Carling Cup and maybe in other countries, cup competitions are not as important.

"But it is in our nature to want to win every game.

"Winning trophies is all about getting to the later stages of competitions and having big games at the end of them. We want to win this, just as we want to win every other tournament we enter."

As Rio Ferdinand's participation depends on him getting over a virus that kept him out of Sunday's victory over Liverpool, Owen could be the most high-profile player involved on United's first visit to Glanford Park.

Most interest will surround new arrival Bebe, who is pencilled in for some involvement after missing the reserve team encounter at Bury last night.

The 20-year-old arrived at Old Trafford via an unconventional route, with eyebrows being raised at how a player who arrived at Vitoria Guimaraes on a free transfer after Portuguese third tier outfit Estrela da Amadora failed to pay his wages, should suddenly be worth in excess of £7million even though he never played a competitive game.

In addition, Ferguson claimed the wide man's fitness levels were not high enough on his arrival at Old Trafford, having admitted he took a punt on Bebe without actually seeing him play.

That problem has seemingly been rectified, so Bebe is set to be exposed to the pressure of being a United player tomorrow in a game Scholes does not expect to be easy.

"Scunthorpe are a very good team at home," he said.

"Anything can happen at places like that so I just hope we can get through to the next round."

In all probability, Scholes will join the likes of Ryan Giggs, Edwin van der Sar, Wayne Rooney and Sunday's hat-trick hero Dimitar Berbatov in getting the night off.

Tomasz Kuszczak will replace Van der Sar, and Anderson is set to start for the first time since rupturing cruciate knee ligaments last February.

Chris Smalling can also look forward to an appearance, as can fellow summer recruit Javier Hernandez, who is set to partner Owen in attack.

Owen's last competitive start was in the final of this competition last season when he scored United's equaliser against Aston Villa at Wembley before being forced off with a hamstring injury that ended his season.

The former Liverpool man is said to be concerned at his limited appearances so far this season, although with games now starting to pile up, Scholes accepts the part of the campaign when he could expect to be involved every week is over.

"The players are not bothered about squad rotation now," he said.

"We have 25 or 26 players training every day and it is something you have to be ready for.

"We know that we are not going to play every game. That is definite. We just have to make sure when we are needed, we are ready to go."



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